Columbian coach Curt Mellott wouldn't go so far as to say he was certain Jeffrey Crawford would get the game-winning hit.
But the confidence was evident.
"I liked our chances, I'll put it that way," he said.
Columbian’s Jeffrey Crawford drives home the winning run in the eighth inning of Thursday’s game against?Willard.
Columbian’s Russ Yeast slides safely into second base as the ball skips away from?Willard’s Derek Provenzale.
It wouldn't be fair to call Crawford's role in TC's 9-8 win over Willard Thursday a one-man show - not in a game that featured big hits from Russ Yeast and Nathaniel Gilmer, among others - but Crawford kept coming through Thursday.
He did it at the plate, where he went 2 for 4 and drove in three runs.
He did it on the mound, where he came on in relief and pitched two scoreless innings, striking out three.
And he did it in the clutch, working a leadoff walk in the bottom of the seventh, stealing second and eventually scoring the tying run. Then, with the bases loaded and the game tied in extra innings, he ripped a single, scoring Yeast to give the Tornadoes the win.
"My teammates did a fabulous job getting on base and got me in the position to make a play," Crawford said. "I was just squared up there, looking to put the ball in play."
Crawford's single ended a long day at the diamond, one in which TC never led until Yeast scored the winning run.
Both teams struggled defensively, combining for 12 errors. Jack Burkes started on the mound for Columbian and pitched 1 2/3 innings, allowing six runs, but none of them were earned.
Willard scored three runs in each of the first two innings, and led 6-2 going to the bottom of the second.
But the Tornadoes responded with four runs in the bottom half of the inning. Yeast singled in two runs in the inning, and later scored.
It was a big day for Yeast, who finished with three hits, scored three times and reached base five times. He also stole four bases.
Mellott had been batting Yeast ninth, but moved him up to the second spot Thursday.
"It definitely worked in our favor today," Mellott said.
"Every time I put the ball in play, I have a chance to get on base," Yeast said. "That's what my coaches are telling me; not to hit fly balls, just get the ball on the ground."
Willard rebounded to take an 8-6 lead in the fourth, when Adam Studer and Tristan Bass hit back-to-back RBI singles off reliever Christian Magill.
Columbian got a run back in the bottom of the inning, but that was it for the scoring until the seventh.
While TC used five pitchers, the Flashes stayed with their starter, Blaine Hershiser, for seven innings. Hershiser allowed eight runs on seven hits, striking out five and walking three. None of the runs were earned.
Hershiser was three outs away from a complete game win, but Crawford's walk and steal set up the Tornadoes. At the plate was Gilmer, who came in to catch when Nate Hoyda moved to the mound for the seventh. It was Gilmer's first at-bat.
"I wasn't thinking much, I just had to come up and get on base somehow, and that's what I did," Gilmer said.
Gilmer slapped a single to right to score Crawford. Hershiser was able to work out of it from there, settling for a no-decision after throwing 115 pitches.
Studer came in for the eighth and took the loss.
Hoyda, who threw two scoreless innings and fanned five, got the win.
Columbian improved to 2-2, 1-0 in the Northern Ohio League. Willard fell to 0-4, 0-1.
"The resiliency of these kids says a lot," Mellott said. "This group definitely wants to win, and we're learning how to win. Sometimes it takes a while to get to that point, but I'm really proud. Definitely a team effort today, and they never quit."